May 10, 2008

Riding horses around the wilds of el Rancho Cuixmala

RANCHO CUIXMALA, Jalisco, Mexico - We spent a few hours Friday morning riding horses around the famous Rancho Cuixmala, about five miles from Arroyo Seco.

We had been invited to come out and ride by our amiga, Mercedes, who with her sister, brother and mother run the huge organic farming and ranch which borders the Cuixmala River. They have five horses, two of which galloped around the pasture when we went by. I couldn't tell if they were wishing they were out on patrol with us, or making fun of their compadres with the humans perched stiffly on their backs.

  • Rancho Cuixmala

  • Mercedes drives the tractor
    Mercedes and her brother on one of their tractors

    As it has been probably 40 years since I climbed on a horse, I was more than a little apprehensive about the whole expedition. Ironically, the last animal I climbed on the back of (in a pasture in western New York) was a pretty tired old fellow named inappropriately Lightning.

    So, in a nice bit of symmetry, the much-younger (and still spirited) horse I rode at Rancho Cuixmala is also named Lightning - at least that's what I was told. Mercedes sister Ana told me to be sure to 'let him know who is the boss.' Good advice, except I had very little idea how to do it, but the Admiral clued me in quickly.

    The Admiral owned horses years ago and had her steed well under control the whole ride. For her it has been only 20 years or so since she rode a horse. A mere moment...

    The ranch is stunning and we rode through trees and fields with all manner of plant and animal life - most of which I couldn't readily identify. Our guide Jose pointed out that the large laguna on the rancho contains crocodiles.

    And at one point, a family of coatimundi ran across the path right in front of us.

    My horse barely took notice, preferring to munch the weeds while we stopped to let the family cross the trail.

    Riding through the trees
    Riding through the trees

    By the end of the ride, I had gotten the hang of how to steer Lightning (it has been 40 years) and I realized that the horse really prefers a nice canter to plodding along like a stereotypical stable beast. We did a few bursts of speed, but the bouncing will take some getting used to for me.

    More horseback riding lies ahead, we hope, even in the wilds of upstate New York at Seneca Lake where we will be in just a few short weeks.

    The Admiral had so much fun she said suggested we get a horse to trot around in Arroyo Seco, or out at Rancho Cuixmala.

    I suggested a burro instead - kind of a low-budget horse and certainly picaresque. I didn't get a very favorable response.

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